Sept. 5, 2011 | In another time and place, Bay Area conservative Democrats like San Jose’s Chuck Reed, San Francisco’s Jeff Adachi, San Leandro’s Stephen Cassidy and Fremont’s Dominic Dutra would be dye-in-the-wool Republicans. With their aims to siphon even more high wage jobs and benefits from regular working Americans upon the facade of economic futility, they share a few things in common. Many made their money in professions devoid of union organization. Many enemies of labor in the Bay Area are lawyers and real estate moguls. Many are fiscal conservatives with an eye on higher office who have invested significantly in the marketing of their political persona as economic reformers.
The East Bay and region at-large still maintains sizable union strength, at least, relative to the rest of the country, but on this Labor Day, the East Bay Citizen looks at 10 public officials and entities, who through their rhetoric, have pursued the worst type of politics–the demonization of the American worker.
CHUCK REED | San Jose Mayor “Captain America,” as he is known, lost his shield last May when he gained national attention for attempting to pursue a so-called nuclear option with city employees. In the shadow of unrest in Wisconsin, the South Bay city became a focal point for supporters of labor nationwide.
Reed, ultimately failed at declaring a fiscal state of emergency in San Jose, which would have allowed the city to amend contracts and benefits. Such a tactic has never been successful, but it sent a chill through labor unions in the area even attracting battle-tested politicians from Wisconsin to the fray.
It is in San Jose where the fiscal ineptitude of the city is being glossed over by refrains by Reed and three councilman to target city workers. Owners in the NBA are using the same tactic by blaming the players’ union for the league’s deficits when it is management who freely offers generous and often time dubious contracts. Fortunately, for labor, Reed’s Hail Mary attempt missed the backboard completely.
STEPHEN CASSIDY | San Leandro Mayor No stance against limiting workers’ rights and pay can be fully justified, but the campaign rhetoric brought forth by Cassidy in 2010 defied logic. The unkept, round-faced mayor continually put down the city’s employees while attempting to shame them for their perceived largess and unwillingness to bend to the city’s economic realities. Every enemy of labor uses the same trick, except, the situation in San Leandro is ironic.
While Cassidy berated the former pro-union mayor, he glossed over the fact the city’s two largest employee unions had actually led the way in submitting to reforms two years earlier. The attack on government workers in San Leandro is one of the most egregious and needless of any city in the East Bay. City employees have not had a pay raise in five years.
Just minutes before being sworn-in as the next mayor of San Leandro he already attempted to a potentially illegal swipe at labor when he urged the city council to postpone a vote on a new labor agreement. Despite being advised against the move, he urged for what would have likely constituted unfair labor practices and exposed the city to a lawsuit from labor.
He also worked the first six months in office for free and urged the council to lower their already pithy paychecks and benefits for public consumption. Most hypocritical of all, Cassidy told city employees to tighten their belts while he moved forward with purchasing one of the city’s most expensive homes from the founder of the powerful Bay Area law firm, Meyers Nave.
JEFF ADACHI | San Francisco Mayoral Candidate Adachi is the type of person who chooses to jam a square peg into a round hole. That hole being the rear ends of San Francisco public workers. Adachi, a lawyer like Cassidy, appears to thrive on the audacity of his actions. It doesn’t hurt that their background in law gives them the air of arrogance that their positions can always be successfully argued in the courts.
Even though his pension reform proposition failed last year in San Francisco, he’s back with another more blunt proposal. He’s also conveniently running for mayor. While most agree if pension reform comes to The City, it will come in the form of the mayor’s more palatable plan and not the proposal made by Adachi. The current city public defender may not be doing his job when it comes to workers’ rights.
If passed, Adachi’s plan could put generations-worth of accepted labor law on the table. Not only could the rights earned over the decades be in jeopardy in the Bay Area, but possibly used for precedent all over the nation. For instance, during the short recession of the early 2000s, some cities sought to save money by raising pension benefits to city workers in exchange for stagnant wages. The gamble did not work out as planned as the short-term savings turned into a morass of debt obligations a few years later. Now, we hear some cities doing the exact opposite.
But, if Adachi’s plan is successful, the notion of a zero-sum agreement between labor and management could be obliterated leading to a further shrinking of the middle class already struggling to pay mortgages and health premiums.
MADISON NGUYEN | San Jose Vice Mayor What is worse than turning your back on labor? How about turning your back on your heritage? Nguyen was nearly recalled in 2008 after she proposed an alternative to naming the Vietnamese-heavy business district in San Jose, Little Saigon. The political connotation of the term apparently scared away Nguyen, put also riled her constituents.
The young immigrant, who praises her parents ethnic work ethic while earning a paltry living, seems to have political and cultural amnesia. Her support of Mayor Reed’s pursuit to “reign” in employee pensions represent just another page in her reputation as San Jose’s Benedict Arnold.
DOMINIC DUTRA | Fremont Councilman I once asked a staffer for State Sen. Ellen Corbett if they thought Dutra would be a Republican in any other city outside of the Bay Area. They smiled and slowly rocked their head in the affirmative.
After a brief respite, Dutra is back at Fremont City Hall, although how long is anybody’s guess. After his appointment to replace Bob Wieckowski on the council, Dutra said he would not run for re-election. Re-election of what? Many think he will run for mayor, which would add weight to his anti-labor views.
It didn’t take long for Dutra to settle into his animus towards labor. The son of former assemblyman and real estate mogul, John Dutra, the younger knows good business deals don’t get made with highly-paid workers. Like Cassidy in San Leandro, Dutra is positioning a run for higher office on the precepts of having the foresight to be a fiscal reformer even before he heads to the Taj Mahal of Bad Finance–Sacramento.
SAM LICCARDO | San Jose Councilman If the Silicon Valley is the capital of high tech, then San Jose must have cloned Dutra and named him Sam Liccardo. Both have ties to real estate. Both are well-coiffed and excellently tailored and both see dollars and cents before the plight of the middle class.
Liccardo has shown himself to be brash and prone to concocting tabloid-style exclusives for himself. Recently, he dramatically released a three-year-old city report possibly detailing $30 million in government waste. It’s the kind of braggadocio people in the Bay Area are not use to, but it also makes Liccardo a dangerous media opponent to labor.
While he has been Reed’s right-hand man with San Jose’s assault on pensions, his mixture of political ambitions and willingness to milk any issue before controversy-starved cameras makes him a loyal lieutenant in perpetrating many of the lies and half-truths anti-labor pols use against workers. Precisely, the falsehood city employee pensions are more generous than those in the private sector.
ROSE HERRERA | San Jose Councilwoman She’s a bit of an anachronism. A council person in one of the largest cities in the state who comes across an uncomplicated school board member. If anything, Herrera is one this list in some cases from guilt by association.
YOUR LOCAL NEWSPAPER That your morning paper fails to take a stand in favor of labor is not a function of the decline of newspaper. In fact, your paper has never supported the union’s cause. Why would editors defend working people and their right to organize to the detriment of management’s own strategy to limit workers’ rights among union scribes and photographers.
The Bay Area’s two biggest newspapers have both took painstaking jabs at unions at both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Bay Area News Group papers. Do you really expect the Hearst Corporation or MediaNews to stand up for labor when they actively pursue to squelch it within their newsrooms? For the media, the demonization of city employees and pensions is merely an extension of their own hostility toward labor amidst creeping irrelevance.
JERRY OLSON | CASTLEWOOD COUNTRY CLUB When you lockout union workers making $12-per-hour for 557 days and run a presitigious country club in Pleasanton, you pretty much loathe the American worker. C’mon.